READING

My Mother’s Body | Gabriel Etim

My Mother’s Body | Gabriel Etim

My Mother's Body Gabriel Etim Agbowo Art African Literary Art

 

I – a bud – opened to absorb

unknown pollen flowing in strange water

that rippled as it came, like a spring dancing into itself.

The sun that touched my petals was a furnace of care

where a fruit would pass to life.

 

But my mother holds onto dreams with the

ferventness of prayers; they are candles she

says I should not dim, my eyes shouldn’t

cease to behold. So

my body sits to learn the language of loss the

morning she hands me a cup.

I cannot yet feel rust eat into iron

or dead as liquid an unformed bone

but in the evening I am an empty house;

she has darkened the face of the sun with rain,

turning it into rusty-colored sunset,

the muddiness dropping from between

my legs, for from here starts the memory

of a budding fruit fell into the earth, a journey

into tunnels echoing with tears.

 

That night she sits me down to look at candles turned to

face the west, across an ocean and many lands where

my betrothed has gone to plant our dreams.

The light stings my eyes. Look into them, you’ve got

to let them shine. Till he comes back, she says.

 

But aren’t walls rabbits taking in their world? And the

neighbours’ ears the receivers of tape recorders the

fingers of a man returning from overseas would play,

pushing words out of them as if in exchange for the

daughters they offer on this platter chance has made?

 

He didn’t need to tell me a wilted flower cannot open

itself again to the sun or spring when an ocean broke it

waves on my face for the second time and the memory

of a grandchild became a siren blowing in

my mother’s head, the drifting shadow left behind the door,

the infant’s bones breaking in a mortar where pepper prepares

itself for the pot, the tearful whispering in the thatch ceiling, the

cry of an unseen child that made a woman a haunted house

before she finally escaped it for life: running from the bathroom

into the neighbour’s yard, her clothes forgotten were they had been .

 


Gabriel Etim has been previously published in Praxis and The Eunoia Review. He writes from Nigeria.


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